The Gay/Bi/Trans HIV Prevention Working Group, a program of The Center, the area's LGBT community center, honored four people from the local LGBT community during an awards ceremony on Monday night. The Sept. 27 event was scheduled to coincide with National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
"This will be an annual thing," says Dan O'Neill, chair of the HIV Prevention Working Group. "The purpose is to draw attention to National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day … and to honor some people who are doing some excellent work but are also out about their status and their sexuality and serve as very positive role models for our community."
This year's honorees are Justin Goforth, who is featured in the "HIV Stops with Me" local ad campaign and is the director of medical adherence unit at the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Earline Budd, healing and treatment specialist at Transgender Health Empowerment; HIV/AIDS activist Cliff Gilbert; and Don Wilder.
"Having lived with HIV for over 20 years, [Wilder has] always been a very vocal person in the community," O'Neill says. "He educates [gay men] about being responsible to each other and respecting each other, but also celebrating sexuality and connecting young gay men and helping them thrive in many ways."
Awardees were presented with red-ribbon awards made of glass. O'Neill says even though Sept. 27 commemorates HIV/AIDS awareness for gay men, the awardees go beyond that scope.
"We wanted those who were nominated to be considered to speak to our larger mission as the Gay, Bisexual, Transgender HIV/AIDS Working Group."
Budd is a good example of that, says O'Neill, pointing out that she works with HIV-positive gay men.
"In a lot of ways we thought she reflected someone who was affected by HIV and had made an incredibly positive example in terms of the life they live and in their work to combat stigma and to help prevent further spread of HIV in the gay community."